What Kim Kardashian can teach us about celebrity social media advertising

This week Kim posted the below advert on Instagram. It's possible that readers of this article don't particularly care about what Kardashian is saying, but there are some important lessons to be learned from what happened after the post went live. 

A bit of background. Kardashian was paid to promote Diclegis morning sickness pills. However after it went live the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) accused her of not mentioning the side affects of the product, required by law. More specifically her post "misleadingly fails to provide material information about the consequences that may result from the use of the drug and suggests that it is safer than has been demonstrated." The main concern, however, was that Kim neglected to mention that it's never been tested with hyperemesis gravidarum, the most severe form of morning sickness. 

Kardashian has now deleted the post, though not before it gained over 400,000 likes. Some would still consider that a success. 

Many brands and celebrities have gotten themselves into legal trouble by not following the regulations when advertising using celebrities on social media. As such, here are a few of the golden rules to keep to. 

The Golden Rules

1. Be transparent

The UK Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations state a prohibition against 'using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer (advertorial).' There's no way around this, and as social media is considered to be an editorial platform first and foremost brands must include some indication of when money is changing hands. 

How this is carried out is a bit more flexible. Standard practice is to use a simple and short "#ad" in the text - however some prefer to include visual references. This Vine is a good example of this:

Celebrities for years were flouting this, including Kim Kardashian herself, but recently these complaints have been taken very seriously. Nike had a whole social media campaign banned for their lack of compliance.

2. Check your sector specific rules!

This is the main problem Kardashian had with her post. She complied with advertising regulations from a general point of view but forgot to really understand what rules applied to her sector. The main areas to really watch are when:

  • advertising health or medical advice
  • advertising fast food or snacks
  • advertising to children
  • advertising legal or financial advice

If in doubt, seek professional legal advice.

3. Think about the audience

So this isn't so much a legal concern, but more one to take into account once you're up to speed on the rules. Be sure that it makes sense to carry out the campaign.

The main factor to consider is the audience. What type of audience are you targeting, what is their relationship with the celebrity, and how might they react to being advertised to?

Here's a couple of examples:

When Kate Thornton advertised Weetabix to her followers she was battered with complaints and negativity - many suggesting they would unfollow her.

On the other side - when Justin Bieber was tweeting about Mother's Day he conveniently forgot to mention that he was being paid. The response to his tweet was far warmer - though one has to wonder how this might have changed if he had been truthful.

If your campaign only serves to annoy the audience you'll  also damage your relationship with the celebrity, and encourage audience members to complain about you to the authorities.

4. Don't treat it differently

Finally, if in doubt, follow the same rules you'd apply to any other form of advertising. Advertising on social media can be a fantastic way to gain brand awareness and engagement - but don't expect a free pass from the law. Ensure you take some time to understand the rules yourself, and once you do the rest will be a breeze.